A lot of people came away from this year’s Annual Meeting feeling positive. We tend to gauge the success of an Annual Meeting by the presence or absence of visible conflict. Since there wasn’t any, many would say the meeting was a good one.
I want to propose, instead, that it was a difficult meeting this year. Oh, not in the sense of contentious debate. Fortunately or unfortunately, there wasn’t any of that. Rather, it was a difficult meeting because of the challenge the congregation accepted in approving the budget. At the current levels of giving, the deficit for 2014 will be over $45,000. At current levels of giving. Which means current levels of giving aren’t sustainable! Since the congregation decided to increase expenses, givings must also increase. I worry that everyone thinks the money is going to come from somebody else. That’s what psychologists call “Diffusion of Responsibility”.
It goes like this: “There was an important job to be done and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody knew that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Somebody wouldn’t. And It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody because Nobody actually did.”
To imagine the deficit will be covered this way is neither sound business – nor even sane. Not being at the meeting does not absolve ‘Anyone’ of responsibility for the decisions the congregation made. This is a big commitment and requires a change of heart, a conversion (the root meaning of the word ‘repent’) from ‘Everybody’. How much should you be giving? I said at the meeting that to cover the deficit would take $10/worshipper/week. One problem with this way of looking at it is that it ties giving to attendance.
The best way to give is by Pre-Authorized Remittance (PAR). That way, when you are away Forest Hill can still count on your money. At the meeting, the past Treasurer talked about the importance of consistency – and PAR ensures that. Another problem is that for some an increase of $10 / week is insufficient. How much should you be giving? Best practice is to tithe 10% of your income. My personal practice has been to give about 1/3 of my tithe to the church where I’m serving, 1/3 to other United Church work (like Five Oaks and the M&S Fund) and 1/3 to other organizations. [Also, while I occasionally give smaller amounts of $20 just because someone asked, as one who’s managed donor-dependent budgeting, let me suggest that it’s more effective to pick a few causes and give generously.]
For some, tithing 10% will feel like an impossibility Try contrasting that with the woman I met who was a life-long tither, even when widowed in her 30’s with 3 young kids. Pretty amazing example! And I’ve met a few people who tithe at 20% or more. Let me invite you to begin by thinking about your giving to the church as a percentage rather than a dollar amount. For instance $10/week for every $10,000 of your annual income is a 5% tithe and would be a great start. Or you might also look at what you spend your money on and ask yourself what the church is worth in comparison to, for instance: eating out at a restaurant, concert tickets, cups of coffee, what you spend at Christmas, cost of vacations? For most of us, living on 90-95% is still enough or even a lot of money